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Will Gen Z bank with you?

Millennials are old news. Gen Z is the new future

A new generation will take financial services into the future. In the "Next Voices" blog a rotating group of bloggers of the younger generation will share what they are learning and doing. Proposals from guest bloggers are also invited. Please email scocheo@sbpub.com A new generation will take financial services into the future. In the "Next Voices" blog a rotating group of bloggers of the younger generation will share what they are learning and doing. Proposals from guest bloggers are also invited. Please email scocheo@sbpub.com

For a number of years, older generations have blamed Millennials for the demise of society as we knew it.

They led to the closure of brick-and-mortar stores. They’ve ruined personal business relationships because they prefer to shop online. They’re destroying banks because they want to use non-bank entities.

Although I fundamentally disagree with these beliefs, I will admit that Millennials have led to a significant shift in how a number of industries, such as retailing and banking, operate.

But, come on now.

Get ready for the next challenge

Millennials have been around since the early 1980s.

That means that the oldest of them are in their mid- to late-30s. The oldest have been adults for nearly two decades. They’ve become members of the workforce, grown families, and developed careers and purchased houses and cars … all those things that adulthood entails.

The youngest Millennials are in their early- to mid-20s and have most likely completed their higher education and have nailed down their first “grown up” jobs.

Millennials are getting old.

Their behaviors have been well documented, their antics known for more than a decade. They’re not “new” anymore, and most institutions have evolved to accommodate them.

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Organizations still pondering the vast mysteries of the Millennial generation are not long for this world. It’s time to consider Generation Z.

Get to know Gen Z

Generation Z is the demographic cohort following Millennials. There are various dates for the start and end of this generation, but Gen Zers were born between the mid- to late-1990s and the mid 2000s. That puts the oldest of them in their early 20s. Generation Z makes up 26% of the population and outnumbers Millennials, who make up 22% of the population.1

They don’t remember a time before the internet was publicly available, and many of them were babysat by smartphones. While many Millennials witnessed the release of innovative new technology, Gen Z was born into it and expect it to be available to them as much as anyone else would expect the lights to turn on when they flip a switch, or water to run when they turn the knob on the faucet.

A plethora of sometimes conflicting information already exists for this young generation that also been dubbed the iGeneration, Post-Millennials, Founders, Homeland Generation, or Plurals.

One thing is for certain: Gen Z has been steeped in technology.

They appear to possess an instinctual knowledge of all things tech. They don’t know what the world looked like before you could get directions to a location on your phone, bank from any mobile device, or gain access to any information one could possibly imagine with the entry of a few keywords and the press of a button.

Can you bank Gen Z?

So, what does this mean for you and your financial institution?

1. You’re going to have to up your social media game.

But not how you think.

Yes, Generation Zers enjoy their social media time, but they use it differently, and they use different platforms than older generations. Over half of Gen Z uses image-dominant sites like Instagram and Snapchat. Just under half of Gen Z is using Twitter, too. More Millennials tend to use Facebook than do Gen Zers, but Gen Z still uses the site more than Gen X. And three out of four Gen Zers visit YouTube frequently.2

Additionally, Generation Z tends to be more specific and restrictive of who sees their social media posts, and which posts they want to see. Facebook is already onto that! It was recently reported that Facebook is altering its algorithms so that posts from businesses like your bank will be viewed less often by users, and posts that matter to them, such as updates from friends and family, will be seen more often.

The best way for businesses to get attention on Facebook will be to pay for advertisements, and other social media sites probably won’t be far behind.

Organic (read “free”) social media growth will become a perk of the past. Your organization should consider creating a budget for social media advertisements.

On Facebook, for example, you can create an ad and run it for as little as $5 a week. You can set parameters relevant to your bank such as location, demographics, and your target audience’s interests.

The game is no longer simply about just having some presence on social media. It’s about putting your organization in front of the people that it will matter to the most.

2. Give them big pictures. Cool it on the text.

Multiple articles call Generation Z unfocused, flakey, and easily bored. They’re multi-taskers, but lose interest quickly.3 I think it’s more of a “Get to the point, or I’m out” attitude. If you can’t capture their interest with a poignant image and a sentence or less, Generation Z won’t pay attention to your advertisement.

That goes for your bank’s website, too. If Gen Zers have to dig through loads of text to find the information they’re looking for, they’ll leave your site. They will not tolerate outdated website formats or incomplete data. They’ll go somewhere else that gives them what they want, fast.

3. They don’t fall for gimmicks or shams. They’re naturally brand-wary.

Remember, Gen Z has grown up in an age where information on almost any topic is at their fingertips.

Your bank might say, “We have the best free checking!” But if you don’t, a quick internet search will blow that statement out of the water in 2.5 seconds. If you claim something, you had better have the evidence to back it up, because Generation Z won’t take you at your word.

Good news for smaller community financial institutions, though. Generation Z is brand wary.4

They don’t fall for the advertisements that depict the perfect body, perfect hair, or perfect life. They value authenticity. They value a company telling it like it is, and showing them how their product can help them.

But if that company should prove untruthful, you can bet your business they’ll find out.

4. They’re young, but they’re financially savvy.

Gen Zers grew up during the financial crisis. They watched parents lose jobs. They saw older, Millennial siblings being forced to find a job in a difficult market while shouldering an astounding amount of student debt, and even having to move back home with mom and dad because of it. So they like to save money and keep themselves out of debt.5

They’re learning how to build credit. They tend to be more discerning about how and where they spend their money than older generations.

Where can you begin?

Now is the time—and the opportunity—for banks to offer new products that cater to Generation Z’s values. For example:

• Introduce college savings accounts with rewards for sticking to a savings plan.

• Create a credit card just for young adults with special rewards for using it at grocery stores, gas stations, and education-related retailers such as bookstores or school supply stores.

• In fact, consider a prize or incentive for Gen Zers who make all their credit card payments on time.

Some of this may go against the grain. Banks will need to get over that

More broadly, get personal, even if it isn’t actually in-person.

Work to foster relationships with Generation Zers, whether that be through video chats, texting, emailing, or in person.

They are wary, but they want to hear from people they trust who have information they crave. Teaching a young person preparing to enter the “real world” how to invest their funds and save for college—or even retirement—can win your bank a lifelong customer.

Many members of Generation Z have barely begun their first year of high school. So there is still much to learn about this generation, but financial institutions must begin to prepare for the new wave of tech savvy young people preparing to enter the workforce.

If your bank is still struggling to adapt to Millennials, you don’t stand a chance with Generation Z.

1.Greg Sterling. “Move over millennials, Gen-Z now the largest single population segment,” Marketing Land, last modified July 17, 2017, accessed Jan. 18, 2018.

2.Sean Hargrave. “Is Gen Z About to Save Twitter and Facebook?Media Post, last modified Oct. 3, 2017, accessed Jan. 15, 2018.

3.Alex Williams. “Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z,” The New York Times, last modified Sept. 18, 2015, accessed Jan. 16, 2018.

4.Elizabeth Segran. “Your Guide to Generation Z: The Frugal, Brand-Wary, Determined Anti-Millennials,Fast Company, last modified Sept. 8, 2016, accessed Jan. 16, 2018.

5.Deep Patel. “10 Insights on Gen Z Spending that Business Leaders Need to Know,Forbes, last modified Aug. 15, 2017, accessed Jan. 16, 2018

Kelsey Neisen

Kelsey Neisen is junior research associate at The Copper River Group, a community bank consulting firm based in Fargo, N.D. She graduated from North Dakota State University with degrees in Anthropology and Public History. In 2011, she won The Center for Public Anthropology Award for Excellence in Writing on Public Issues. Kelsey previously worked in a variety of historical institutions, including Bonanzaville, USA and the North Dakota State University Archives, where she focused on the preservation of historical documents and making them available to the public for research.

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